Early Identification of Autism

Bradford OA Intervention – Early Identification of Autism

Autism spectrum conditions (ASC) occur in approximately 1.5% of the UK population, with many struggling greatly in a world dominated by social interactions. ASC is associated with reduced social interactions and restricted, repetitive interests and activities.

Parents and teachers can face greater challenges when helping children with ASC to reach their potential, and therefore identifying ASC early is important because children, their parents/carers and teachers/teaching support staff can receive early help and be educated in places trained to support them. Unfortunately, CAER have shown that many children – especially from deprived backgrounds and certain ethic groups – do not receive a diagnosis until much later in their schooling.

CAER undertook a pilot study that was successfully run in 2019/20 in ten Bradford primary schools, involving in-school screening of 600 pupils to identify ‘at risk’ pupils faster and more accurately. The pilot identified children who would benefit from a formal autism assessment, with parental consent gained to assess 35 of these children.

Subsequently, each school containing these children was visited by a multi-agency team, including CAMHS and educational psychology services, to help make these assessments quickly, share information instantly with teachers and parents, and facilitate the development of a single support plan. This approach also identified children with a range of other neurodevelopmental disorders which the multidisciplinary team were able to assess and then provide a report to the school identifying the tailored support required for the precise needs of each child.  This builds on previous research undertaken by CAER showing that the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) scores given by teachers at the end of reception year can be used to help identify neurodevelopmental problems including ASC.

Through this intervention, BOA have pioneered the UK’s first real breakthrough in the early identification of undiagnosed ASC that enables children to get the support needed at an earlier age. Importantly, early identification and tailored support have been shown to be highly effective in mitigating the lifelong problems associated with neurodevelopmental differences, and reducing the long-term social and economic costs. Professor Nathan Hendren from Harvard University has shown there are substantial financial savings that can be realised through addressing these types of issues early in a child’s life.

You can find a video of this process below.